“One tower is worth five big walls” said Layton Kor. Then is Moses, the highest and most shapely tower in Canyonlands National Park, worth five climbers? Since Shay emphasized how much of a cluster it was to climb Moses’ Primrose Dihedrals route as a party of three we decided to go as a party of five! Hopefully two more people could solve those logistical issues… Right?
Further logic went like this: Andre, Michelle, Angelina and Konstantin are all stronger climbers, but Ben is fast, so why not have Ben lead all of the pitches? Makes about as much sense as driving 14 hours to Moab from San Diego for a long weekend of climbing, no? And as much sense as driving a Honda Fit down a notoriously washed out 4wd road a dozen miles to approach Moses, too. As genius as not getting gas and taking back roads that leave the tank empty as the sun sets on us in the town of Glamis, California, population 6. Or after getting rescued by AAA, filling up at a gas station whose name was “NO BRAND.” Our posse was full of wacky ideas on this trip! (See here for pics of other shenanigans and climbs on the trip, mostly Indian Creek.)
Well sometimes the adventure is the important thing, and things that don’t make sense at all can be the most fun! When this cockamamie plan seemed to actually be adopted, I didn’t complain, because instead of only the 10+ wide hands pitch lead to look forward to, I now would also get the highly regarded ringlocks 10+, the ear pitch, and the nut corner as well! In all, eight pitches of one of the very most highly regarded desert tower routes awaited! And then we’d be down in time to celebrate Konstantin’s birthday. His present was the climb, and we’d celebrate it with watermelon and Stone beer!
Michelle sends the pitch 2 ringlocks
The plan was set: I would gun and Andre would follow with the camera on the first rope. The second (photogenic) rope was the party of three, the two ladies and pretty boy Konstantin who alternated leads and basked in the limelight of Andre’s photoshoot (see the gallery at the end of the post). This actually turned out well, as I was able to rest a lot as the party of three climbed and showed their beautiful crack-grunting faces to the camera. The party of five juggernaut allowed me and everyone else sufficient rest to onsight blitz all of the pitches. Onsight all, that is, except the ear, a giant 11b wide/ lieback flake that is also the most amazing pitch of the route, as well as the most sustained and burly.
Despite our relaxed attitude, the grade IV rating, and our unwieldy party size, the climb went pretty quickly; we even linked pitches a few times. Two granola bars and one liter of water was just enough, and Andre and I, the two vegetarians, vegged out on the summit for an hour or so waiting for the others to finish the Ear and come on up. Five on top! Time to party!
Ben on pitch 6, the Ear
The grades were not sandbagged IMO, despite what some trip reports (here’s a great one by Black Diamond Athlete Brittany Griffith) seem to claim. The route is definitely sustained, and there are no gimmie pitches, but aside from pitch 6, the ear, I only felt I really worked it to my limit for pitch 2, the ringlocks. And the quality and variety of the climbing was great–no two pitches were similar.
Above all else, the Moses summit was incredible even ignoring the excellent climbing to get there. There was one other party doing some aid line on the nearby tower Zeus, but as a non-clustered party of two on a shorter tower, they were done by the time we summited. No one else on Moses or in the entire area– our voices echoes four and five times across the vastness of the Canyonlands National Park backcountry! Times five people, that’s 20 + echoes! We read the notoriously-in-bad-taste summit log and contributed our own drawing. Then we all took summit shots and did the picturesque rappel down, with plenty of light for a birthday party and for the drive out.
Primrose Dihedrals had been on my radar for a long time, but until I got a copy this past week I didn’t know it appeared in the 50 Favorites book, a ticklist which is essentially a beefed up version–20+ years later– of the 50 Classics list. 50 mostly 5.11′s instead of mostly 5.8′s. Turns out I have climbed more in the Favorites (4) book than in the Classics (3). Well, those are just someone else’s opinion; my favorite climb, Zoroaster Temple is not even in either and the Sierra Nevada’s best climb, Michael Strassman Memorial Route, isn’t even in any guidebook! Not to worry, Pullharder makes our own Favorite Climbs lists!
No need to blitz every route. Even Pullharder sometimes has to stop and smell the flowers!